The Synodal Way picks up speed © Harald Oppitz (KNA)
The Synodal Way, initiated by the German bishops and the Central Committee of German Catholics, starts its substantive work with a synodal assembly in Frankfurt/Main. Some questions and answers.
Synodal Way – what does it actually mean?
The "Synodal Way" is not meant to be a synod in the classical sense of the word. The conceptual proximity to the synod expresses, however, that the reform dialogue, initially limited to two years, is intended to be more than a non-binding discussion. The bishops and lay people in Germany have initiated it, the rules are laid down in a statute. Like a synod, it is the local bishop who decides whether to implement the decisions made at the Synodal Way.
What the dialogue should bring?
"The Synodal Way of the Catholic Church in Germany serves the common search for steps to strengthen the Christian witness," says the statute. The wording takes up an idea that Pope Francis emphasized in his summer letter to the "pilgrim people of God in Germany". In it, he urged unity with the universal Church and demanded that the guiding criterion of renewal be evangelization.
The main topics on the agenda are sexual morality, the priestly way of life, power and the separation of powers, and the role of women in the church. Bishops and laity are reluctant to give concrete results and expectations. But conceivable would be, for example, a greater participation of women in church services and in church leadership functions, for example as a member of a cathedral chapter.
What are the first steps?
From 30. January to 1. February, the synodal assembly, consisting of about 230 members, meets in Frankfurt/Main for the first time. The highest decision-making body of the Synodal Way includes, among others, the current 69 members of the German Bishops' Conference and 69 participants from the ranks of the ZdK: 31 women and 38 men.
At this first meeting, the participants intend to set up four forums on the overarching themes of the Synodal Way. The working groups should consist of about 30 people. The group of participants is recruited from the members of the synodal assembly and external consultants.
To pass resolutions in the synodal assembly, a double two-thirds majority is required – of all members present as well as the members of the bishops' conference present.
Conservatives like Curia Cardinal Robert Sarah warn against adapting to the spirit of the times, liberals hope for reforms – what do the debates at the level of the universal Church mean for the Synodal Way??
In Rome, a book recently caused a stir in which Cardinal Robert Sarah and Benedict XVI. against relaxing the obligation of celibacy for priests. This rule, in turn, was most recently called into question at the Amazon Synod in the Vatican.
It will be exciting to see what conclusions Francis draws from the Amazon Synod. It is not yet clear when he will publish his so-called post-synodal letter, but observers expect it by the end of January. That could influence the Frankfurt debates.